Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hamilton ****

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s highly anticipated hip-hop musical about the life of one of our most intriguing founding fathers is now in previews at the Public Theater. Stop reading long enough to buy a ticket, if you can snag one. [As of February 4, the Public website indicates that there are tickets available starting in early April.] The multi-talented Miranda not only wrote the music, lyrics and book; he is the co-arranger and, last but not least, the star. This ambitious, inventive show is strong across the board: the entertaining, informative and emotionally involving book is filled with moments of humor and pathos, the characters are vividly drawn, the lyrics are extremely clever, the deceptively simple scenic design (by David Korins) is effective, the costumes (by Paul Tazewell) are attractive, the choreography (by Andy Blankenbuehler) supports the action well, the cast is uniformly excellent and the direction (by Thomas Kail) is fluid and assured. As for the music, hip-hop will never be a genre that I gravitate to, but Miranda makes a strong case for its expressive possibilities. Miranda captures the complexities of Hamilton’s personality. Brian D’Arcy James almost steals the show as King George. Daveed Diggs excels at his two juicy roles — Lafayette and Jefferson. Leslie Odom Jr. is a fine Aaron Burr. Philllipa Soo is touching as Elizabeth, Hamilton’s loyal wife, and Renée Elise Goldsberry is excellent as her sister Angelica. Christopher Jackson has just the right gravitas for George Washington. Miranda was inspired by Ron Chernow’s 818-page revisionist biography of Hamilton. If there is a fault, it is that he was overambitious and included too much material. I was a bit exhausted by play’s end, but it was a pleasant kind of exhaustion. A transfer to Broadway seems inevitable. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes including intermission. 

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